U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is designating 31 areas across the country as not meeting the daily standards for fine particle air pollution (PM 2.5), or particulate matter.
Particulate matter, which comes from power plants, factories and motor vehicles, can cause a number of serious health problems, including aggravated asthma, increased hospital admissions and emergency room visits, heart attacks and premature death.
Large areas of California, Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Ohio, among others, are in violation of the standard. Click here for your state.
Particulate matters, or PM, are particles found in the air, including dust, dirt, soot, smoke, and liquid drops. Particles remain in the air for long periods. Some particles are large or dark enough to be seen as soot or smoke, as in diesel truck exhaust. Others are so small that they can only be detected with an electron microscope.
Many man made and natural sources emit particulate matter directly or emit other pollutants that react in the atmosphere to form them. These solid and liquid particles come in a wide range of sizes.
Particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter (PM10) pose a health concern because they are inhaled and accumulate in the respiratory system. Particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5) are “fine” particles, and are believed to pose the greatest health risks. Because of their small size (approximately 1/30th the average width of a human hair), fine particles can lodge deeply in your lungs.
EPA estimates that about one out of every three people in the United States is at a higher risk of experiencing PM2.5 related health problems. One group at high risk is active children because they often spend a lot of time playing outdoors and their bodies are still developing. In addition, oftentimes the elderly population is at risk. People of all ages who are active outdoors are at increased risk because, during physical activity, PM2.5 penetrates deeper into the parts of the lungs that are more vulnerable to injury.